A Voyage Home: Recording the Music of My Country. Interview with Flutist Ysmael Reyes Print E-mail
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Written by Robert Schulslaper   
Sunday, 18 August 2013

A Voyage Home: Recording the Music of My Country. Interview with Flutist Ysmael Reyes

Although flutist Ysmael Reyes currently lives and teaches in Colorado, he was born in Venezuela. His musical talent and cultural sensitivity flourished there, so it’s only natural that his first recording, Incanto , should revisit the music of his homeland. In our recent conversation he taught me a lot about the composers and repertoire he’s chosen, but only after we delved into his early life and what it was like to study music in Venezuela.

Q: Was music an important part of your childhood?

A: I have been around music since I can remember. My father, Gustavo, is an avid and accomplished Latin percussionist. He’s an excellent conga player and also plays bongos, drum set, and other percussion instruments. He’s had a band for about 35 years, and my brothers and I used to go to the band practices and shows with him and play around with instruments. I feel that there has always been music in my house, and I remember getting very interested and intense about certain songs or artists that I wanted to listen to over and over. I think those early experiences made me very aware of the power of music. My parents always fostered our creativity and artistic expression and encouraged us to listen to good music. My brothers and I were in art classes for about six or seven years when we were kids. I was very shy and art helped me to express myself by means other than words. My older brother, Gustavo, became an incredible artist. I have eight or nine of his paintings at home and hope he’ll do something for me for the cover of a future album.

Q: What drew you to the flute?

A: As I grew up, I became more interested in music and wanted to play an instrument. My first inclination was towards the guitar, which is an instrument I still love to listen to—any kind, classical, electric, jazz, rock, flamenco. My father couldn’t find a good guitar teacher at the time so that didn’t work. However, when I was about 10 years old, my uncle Rodolfo (my father’s youngest brother) was already a great jazz and Latin saxophone player. He played with many artists that I used to hear on TV and the radio and I thought it was the coolest thing to be able to play with those musicians. My parents took me to the local arts center, since it was the same place where I was attending art classes, so I could start taking theory and solfège classes. When it was time to choose an instrument, I wanted to play the sax, just like my uncle, but there was no sax teacher in that school. It happened that the center was also the home of the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Carúpano—one of the now internationally recognized System of Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, commonly known as El Sistema . I used to listen to the orchestra rehearsals when I got out of my music theory classes before my mother came to pick me up after work, and I was starting to like the intensity of orchestral music. So we figured I should start on an orchestral instrument, and since the flute was the closest I could imagine to the sax (my uncle also plays the flute) I went for it, and I thought I would change later to the sax. However, there was not to be a change. I enjoyed so much to be playing the flute that I was practicing all the time. The youth orchestra was a very powerful and intense experience. We rehearsed about three to four hours every day, Monday to Saturday. In about six months I was playing major orchestral repertoire by Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Beethoven, Mozart, and several months later I became principal flutist of both the town and state orchestras.

Q: Some musicians study with many teachers, some with only one, and some claim to be self-taught. How about you?

A: I have studied with many excellent teachers, each one of whom has left a profound mark in me both as a musician and as a person. My parents were my first influence. My father passed to me a deep love for music and art and my mother taught me incredible discipline and perseverance, without which I couldn’t be the musician I am today. In my hometown my first teacher, Elvis Villarroel, and later Enver Cuervos, of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra—the flagship orchestra of El Sistema —were very caring and motivating teachers and encouraged me to pursue music as a career.

When I moved to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to study at the National Conservatory, I started taking lessons with Víctor Rojas, principal flute of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, who had just been a couple years back from his studies in Paris. He’s been one of the most important figures in my career. During that time, my flute lessons with him were the highlight of my week. I looked forward to playing for him so much that I just practiced the flute all day. He instilled in me a very deep love for the flute. Since he was able to create that in me, he was able to push me extremely hard in my practice so I could always achieve higher goals. For about six months I also studied with Glenn Michael Egner, then principal of the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra. He’s an American and a Juilliard graduate who moved to Caracas in the ’70s. Even though I was only with him for a short time, I learned a lot of repertoire that other teachers were not teaching at the moment and I liked very much the organization and focus of his lessons. Later, also in Caracas, I studied with Luis Julio Toro, who at the time was one of the most well-known musicians in the country and one of the few who had a successful career as a soloist. He definitely lit a fire in me, and taught me how to develop a commanding presence when performing, how to use my energy and charisma on and off stage, and how to be an integral artist, not just a flutist. He’s a great guy and a good friend. We used to go on long and hard eight- or nine-hour hikes and kayaking trips together, and he made me realize how much powerful life experiences shape us as artists.

I have also been very fortunate to study with amazing teachers here in the United States. I am greatly indebted to my wonderful teachers Tadeu Coelho, Robert Dick, Alexa Still, and Christina Jennings. I am especially grateful to Tadeu, who listened to me in the final round of the first Latin American Flute Competition, and invited me to join his studio. He gave me invaluable help so I could come to study in the U.S. He showed me a completely different way of playing and a new level of technical mastery. Robert pushed me to be more outspoken about my musical ideas and interpretation, and to always pursue new and exciting projects. Alexa is an amazing teacher. I am very thankful for the faith she had in me. She encouraged me to believe that I could manage pretty much anything in terms of playing. She taught me a great deal without saying too much, accompanying me through the process, but always letting me lead along the way. And Christina encouraged me to find pure beauty in my playing. She has a special quality in her tone that I just admire so much. She was all about refining and polishing my playing. She showed up at the exact right moment to give me the tools to fine tune the work I had been doing for years. They are all very different flutists and teachers, and each one of them helped me develop different aspects of my playing. They all treated me with love and it has been an incredible experience to have them in my life.

Q: Is classical music your only love or do other styles attract you, as well?

A: The flute features prominently in the music of the Caribbean and it was an exciting and natural experience for me—because of my background—when I started playing Latin music. Once I became proficient on the flute, I played with my father’s band whenever I went back to my hometown. I’ve never studied improvisation seriously, although I have looked into jazz theory and improvisation by myself. I have played for fun frequently enough in the past years with reggae, cumbia, and Brazilian music bands that I can improvise solo and accompanying lines competently. I’ve experimented a great deal playing the flute with digital effects, sampling, and looping, which I used for a few years in a local Latin-reggae band in Boulder, Colorado. For some time I was gigging with them a lot, and it was a lot of fun and a very different experience to my classical music career, but I’ve never had any pretensions about becoming a professional reggae, Latin jazz, or pop musician. There are so many amazing artists in pop, rock, and jazz these days that I prefer to stick to what I am good at and just have fun playing other music styles whenever I can.

I always listen with an open mind and an open heart so I can learn from any musician or band I am exposed to. Truly, the amount of music I want to listen to is almost overwhelming. However, there are some artists that I have listened to constantly for a long time and who have deeply inspired me and influenced my own playing. Some of my favorites are flutists Emmanuel Pahud, Alain Marion, and Emily Beynon; baroque flutist Barthold Kuijken; Latin jazz flutist Orlando “Maraca” Valle; Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia; jazz guitarist John Scofield; afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti; Latin rock legends Gustavo Cerati and Luis Alberto Spinetta; harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt; viola da gamba master Jordi Savall; pianists Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels; jazz keyboardists Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock; Latin music greats Ray Barreto, Ruben Blades, Chucho Valdes, and his band Irakere.

Q: Besides the hard work, it seems that playing with the Orchestra of Carúpano was also fun.

A: Yes, it was a lot of work, but it didn’t feel like that. It was also a social activity for me. Since I spent so much time there I had a lot of friends in the orchestra and I enjoyed it very much. Also, I guess it was an ego-driven motivation to be part of the orchestra. Since I was a little kid playing principal flute I was getting a lot of attention from the teachers, conductors, and parents, which I liked. The tours with the youth orchestra when I was just starting to perform solo hold a very special place in my memory, as well. We had several trips around Venezuela, and also traveled to Argentina and the Caribbean Islands. Everything was so improvised and chaotic at the time. Being a kid and not being aware, or interested for that matter, of schedule and organization, it seemed like we never knew where we were going to play next. We just jumped onto our little bus and wherever we stopped we would play. It was such a joy and an excitement to get to know new places, countries, and cultures, and to play as a soloist day after day. I had a blast, and it was a wonderful learning experience.

Q: Any favorite anecdotes you’d like to share?

A: There was a time when I was studying with Alexa Still. I was at school practicing one Friday afternoon and Alexa called me to her office at about 4:00 pm. I went there, and with the most natural and relaxed demeanor she asked me “can you go tomorrow to Albuquerque to play a solo flute recital?” I asked, “Solo…no piano?” “No,” she replied, “just you.” This was the guest artist concert for the Albuquerque Flute Association’s Flute Fiesta, a festival that in the few years before that had invited world-class flutists of the caliber of William Bennett and Trevor Wye. The guest artist who was scheduled to play had a family emergency and had to cancel Thursday afternoon. So, the program chair was going crazy calling flutists around the country for a replacement and most people couldn’t or didn’t want to play on such a short notice. They called Alexa but she also had another commitment, so she asked me, with less than 24 hours to prepare, if I would go instead. Naturally, I wanted to think about it before I decided, but obviously there was no time, so she took the phone and said, “here, let’s call them so you can tell them what you want to play.” She was great, she put it as if she was asking me if I could go make some copies for her or something totally ordinary like that. And without saying anything else she made me realize at that moment that she had complete confidence that I could do it. So, I came up with a program in about 15 minutes: I went home and played through the music three or four times, went to bed, and woke up at dawn to go to the airport. Got to Albuquerque, performed at around noon, and in less than 24 hours I was back home.

It was a wonderful experience. Since I didn’t have time to worry about the concert or even think too much about it, I was very focused and I played very well. The organizers were elated that I had saved the day, because no one wanted to play solo on such short notice. I’ve always been grateful to Alexa for trusting me and for pushing me to do that recital. That experience changed the way I looked at performances and helped me understand how much I could achieve if I just committed entirely to something.

There was also a time when I was going to a festival in Brazil to perform and teach. To be honest, I do not enjoy airports and flights very much and always get kind of anxious when traveling. I was very focused because I had to play two recitals and a solo concerto with orchestra and teach master classes every day. Not much time to practice or relax at all. I was walking around the airport and to my surprise, on my first flight, I ran into a very good friend, not a musician, and I just thought, “this is great, we can talk about anything but music.” We got to Miami for a long layover and after lunch he said, “let’s grab a coffee.” So we went to a Cuban Café and asked for two coffees: It was one of those deals where you pay a little more and get two extra shots of espresso! By this time I wasn’t thinking about the concerts at all, so we thought it was indeed a good deal. Well, my anxiety about the trip multiplied by three with each shot of espresso and I was almost shaking and couldn’t calm down for the rest of my wait and the flight to Brazil. I went through so much excitement, jitters, and energy on the first day that the rest of the trip, including the performances, felt like a breeze!

Q: I’m looking forward to hearing about your new CD, Incanto , but first, could you tell me a little about the importance of classical music in Venezuela?

A: Classical music in Venezuela dates back to colonial times, although it wasn’t nearly as strong as it was in some other countries such as Mexico. In the beginning classical music was heavily tied to the Catholic Church. From the end of the 18th century there’s been a marked evolution and expansion of musical activity in the country. Concert ensembles, choruses, and opera companies operated constantly in Caracas, and two concert theaters were built to accommodate them. Since that time, several generations of accomplished composers started to emerge, of which the most important are Juan Manuel Olivares, Juan José Landaeta, Lino Gallardo, José Angel Lamas, and later Teresa Carreño, Pedro Elías Gutiérrez, Vicente Emilio Sojo, Juan Vicente Lecuna, and Emilio Estévez, among others. The Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra has been in uninterrupted activity for nearly 80 years in Caracas and their concerts are always well attended. They’re a consummate group with fine musicians from Venezuela who have received their musical formation both in the country and in the U.S. and Europe playing alongside many Eastern Europeans who have moved to Venezuela to join the orchestra. However, mass musical instruction and countrywide expansion began with the National System of Youth Orchestras, which was formed in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu. They have now nearly 500,000—maybe even more at this point—school kids and young adults involved in hundreds of symphony orchestras across the country. I started there and it was a wonderful experience. When I moved to Caracas from my hometown I played in two orchestras, first the Caracas Youth Symphony, and later I played on and off with the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Symphony, which was, at the time, the premier professional orchestra for young musicians, a sort of springboard ensemble. El Sistema has become an important cultural and social phenomenon in Venezuela, in which many great musicians have been formed and developed.

Q: So in a sense Incanto is helping both to perpetuate and update the Venezuelan classical tradition: The music is certainly classical but what defines it as Venezuelan?

A: There are several things that make this recording particularly Venezuelan. First, the most obvious reason, all the composers and I are from this Caribbean country. We all received our musical formation there (although many of us also pursued studies abroad) and we all lived—or still live—most of our lives there. As evident as this might be I think this particular fact has a lot of value. The great Argentinean writer Ernesto Sabato, speaking about nationalistic literature wrote in his book, El Escritor y sus Fantasmas ( The Writer and his Ghosts ), “The key should not be searched either in folklore or in the nationalism of themes and clothing: it should be searched in the depth of the work. If a drama is profound, ipso facto , it is national, because the dreams from which the characters of the fiction are woven, emerge from that dark area that has its foundation in the childhood and the homeland; that…expresses in one way or another the feelings and anxieties, the racial dilemmas, the psychological conflicts that form the substratum of a nation in that instant of its history.” I think this idea applies to the music of Incanto in a very direct sense. I consider the works in this album great music and all the composers are very intrinsically involved in the culture of the country. It’s the same about my performances in this recording. I’ve lived here in the U.S. for a long time, but Venezuela is the place where I grew up and first became interested in music. Also, I’ve been around these works and composers for a long time, so I consider my interpretation of this music very genuinely Venezuelan.

There are, of course, certain cultural elements unique to my country, such as the use of the Joropo, one of the most popular genres in Venezuelan folk music. Although also present in Colombia, in Venezuela the Joropo is considered the national dance. It is a recreational dance that is characterized by a constantly changing 3/4 and 6/8 pattern. Joropo is also the name of the party or gathering where this music is performed. There are many variations and subgenres that are sometimes emblematic of certain regions of the country. For example, the Joropo con Estribillo, such as in the opening work of the CD, Raimundo Pineda’s El Bachiano , is characteristic of the northeastern part of the country, where I come from. That was one of the reasons—and also, naturally, because it’s an outstanding solo piece—that I wanted to use it to open the program. Then, there is the Pajarillo—also a very important and widespread genre in Venezuelan music—in Omar Acosta’s Solo de Pajarillo , which is a fast and very energetic variation of the Joropo. The Pasaje, heard in the first movement of René Orea’s Tres Irunulaciones, is another subgenre of the Joropo, this one being slower and more lyrical. The third movement of this work, “Costa-Montaña” and the last piece of the program is another fast Joropo. Although these works include these varieties of this popular dance genre, the composers present them in very different and interesting guises, combining them with counterpoint, modern harmonies, and European classical music structures.

Besides what I would call the rhythmic identity, the melodic component is often distinctive. For example, Juan Francisco Sans’s Canto Aborigen (Aboriginal Chant) is entirely based on original melodies from the most important Venezuelan ethnic groups. This is a truly wonderful piece, with a beautiful lyricism at times, a profound and heavy character at others and an energetic and rhythmic drive that permeates the entire suite. The original melodies are presented and developed in the most interesting ways while preserving their primeval quality. The Son, used in Paul Desenne’s Ranchosón , is a dance that originated in Cuba. However, afro-Cuban dances and rhythms, such as son, son montuno, salsa and its derivations, are an ever present feature in the urban dance music that graces clubs and parties around the country. The works by Lecuna and Barrios are the ones that exhibit fewer ordinarily identifiable nationalistic elements, and, compared to the other works might sound un-Venezuelan to foreign ears. But, just as Sabato mentioned, they are full of the cultural and personal experiences and influences that the country offered at the time they were composed. Maybe I have a long and profound history with these works, but they remind me of my country as vividly as any Joropo or Merengue (another popular dance) do.

Q: Are you close to Incanto ’s composers?

A: Eduardo Lecuna, René Orea, and Raimundo Pineda are very good friends. Eduardo was, in fact, one of my closest friends when we were pursuing our undergrad music degrees in Caracas. He’s a very interesting and knowledgeable person. We used to spend long afternoons and nights listening to music and analyzing scores. His Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra is a great work and earned a first prize in a renowned composition competition in Venezuela. His music is frequently featured in the most important new music festivals in the country. He now teaches at the department of postgraduate studies in music at the Simón Bolívar University.

René Orea is from the same region of the country I come from. I am not sure if he was born in my hometown as well, or if he lived there for a while. When I met him he lived in Cumaná, the capital of my state, Sucre, but his family had a house very close to mine, and as a kid I would ride my bike to visit him. He’s an extremely talented musician. He’s an outstanding flutist, composer, and arranger and can play piano, guitar and cuatro (a small four-string guitar, the Venezuelan national instrument). He was my first inspiration as a flutist when I started playing. He was principal of the state youth orchestra and for some time he was a member of the flute section of the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra before he moved to Canada, where he lives now. He knows traditional Venezuelan music inside out and plays it amazingly as well.

Raimundo Pineda is another accomplished flutist. He’s assistant principal with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra. We played together in the Venezuelan National Flute Orchestra were we performed many of his works and he later conducted the ensemble. He’s a very prolific composer and his music is heavily influenced by traditional genres. His works have been recorded and performed by many great flutists such as William Bennett, Denis Bouriakov (principal with the New York Metropolitan Opera), and Marco Granados, among others.

Paul Desenne, Omar Acosta, Andrés Barrios, and Juan Francisco Sans are from a generation of Venezuelan musicians before mine. I didn’t have much of a relationship with them because they weren’t with El Sistema anymore when I arrived in Caracas, and I was heavily involved with El Sistema’s Caracas Youth Orchestra and later the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Symphony (the two most important El Sistema youth orchestras in Caracas at the time). Paul Desenne composes some of the most interesting music by a Venezuelan composer these days. He has experimented with traditional genres of many Latin American countries, all kinds of instrumental formats, and some of the results are simply mind blowing. Most of his works have a strong Latin flavor and are performed by renowned artists and ensembles around the world. Omar Acosta I knew mainly as a flutist. He used to play with the Venezuelan Symphony but he left Caracas before I arrived. He lives now in Spain where he leads a thriving concert career performing traditional Venezuelan music and Spanish Flamenco, and stays busy as a composer. Andrés Barrios is a very gifted musician, poet, and artist. I remember we used his paintings in posters of the Venezuelan Flute Orchestra, and I’ve seen them on CD covers of Venezuelan ensembles as well. He plays the clarinet with a couple of very successful small ensembles that perform very creative and innovative programs. I have never met Juan Francisco Sans in person. But he has always been an important feature in the Venezuelan music scene. He’s currently the dean of the School of Arts at the Venezuelan Central University. He has published a number of research projects and articles about the music of Venezuela in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. His compositions and critical editions of Venezuelan works have been recorded and performed extensively both in Venezuela and abroad.

Q: As I listened to the CD, I felt that you’ve completely internalized the music, that it’s become part of you.

A: This is music I have been performing for a very long time. For example, I played the Canto Aborigen for the first time in my senior recital when I graduated from the University of the Arts in Caracas in 2001. I know these works very well and it’s a great pleasure for me when I perform them.

Q: In general, the music is atmospheric, suggestive, and to a North American, even exotic. These attributes are enhanced by certain extended techniques, some of which sound positively electronic. (I’m thinking specifically of Canto Aborigen, but slides or note bends feature in a few of the other pieces.)

A: In “Toque de Flauta de Pan” ( Canto’s movement 5), the pianist, Susan Olenwine, taps the inside frame of the piano. This piece was originally written for flute and harp: In that version the player taps on the harp’s body, which, of course, is hollow. So we tried to get as close as possible to that. That’s why there is that drum-like tone quality. We actually spent quite some time trying to get the sound we wanted.

The preceding track, “Toque Funerario,” uses multiphonics, in which the flutist produces two or more sounds at once by manipulating the airflow. I’m glad you thought they were produced by some kind of effect added to the flute. That’s the idea I had in mind, to make them so natural, even, and homogeneous with the texture created by the piano part that it sounded that there was some kind of “distortion” or “overdrive” added to the tone of the flute. In the case of the Canto Aborigen , they produce a timbral variation which is very effective in creating that atmospheric, almost eerie, effect you mentioned, that goes so well with the general character of the “Funeral Chant”...

Q: Since there are apparently so many fine composers in Venezuela have you asked any of them to write for you?

A: I have already commissioned a piece for flute and piano from Eduardo Lecuna, the composer of Incanto (the CD’s title track), which will hopefully be completed sometime in 2014. There is so much good music in Venezuela these days that I do have plans to not only commission some new works but to also go back and try to collect as much repertoire as possible and perform these new pieces here, as they are completely unknown to American audiences.

Q: What are some of your other plans for the future?

A: It’s going to be a busy and exciting season. Right now I am focusing on a performance of part of the program of Incanto at the National Flute Convention in New Orleans. I am already planning recitals with my wonderful music partner, pianist Susan Olenwine. Also, since the beginning of this year I have been playing the traverso (baroque flute) with the Boulder Bach Festival orchestra. I’ll be playing chamber music concerts and a solo concerto this season with them. I love playing the traverso. There is a feeling of simplicity and intimacy about its tone and the wood that I find irresistible, but it is a tremendous amount of work for me to play it, as I perform mainly on the modern flute. I am very excited about those concerts, as I’ll be playing with outstanding baroque musicians such as violinists Paul Miller, Nurit Pacht, and Zacary Carreting, harpsichordist and conductor Rick Erickson, and bassoonist Anna Marsh. I’ll also be premiering a newly commissioned work for flute and orchestra by Chicago-based Costa Rican composer Pablo Chin with the Claremont Orchestra and Venezuelan conductor David Cubek in Claremont, California. Also next year I have plans for an album for flute and guitar with my good friend, guitarist Mike Quam, who did an outstanding job in Incanto as recording engineer and producer. Although there is going to be constant playing this season—and the necessary endless hours of practicing that go with it—I always try to balance my schedule with family time. I am very fortunate to have a beautiful and supporting wife, Gina, and a great son, Marcelo. He’s a crafty soccer player, and since I play soccer too, I enjoy very much taking him to team practices and matches and playing with him.

INCANTO Ysmael Reyes (fl); Susan Olenwine (pn) CLEAR NOTE 74598 (53:32)

PINEDA El Bachiano. ACOSTA Solo de Pajarillo. SANS Canto Aborigen. DESENNE Ranchosón. BARRIOS Cuculi. Adiós Pariente. LECUNA Incanto. OREA Tres Irunulaciones

Incanto , a collection of Venezuelan music for solo and accompanied flute, should be an ear-opening experience for most listeners. These are exciting, expressive works that imaginatively integrate folk music with classical technique. Composition in Venezuela, as in other South American countries, was based on early Spanish and later European models. So it’s not surprising that musicians like Villa-Lobos and Raimundo Pineda, whose melodic and rhythmic “fingerprints” are uniquely Brazilian and Venezuelan, respectively, were also moved to honor Bach, one of Europe’s quintessential composers. Pineda’s El Bachiano plays with ornaments and sequences to evoke the baroque but then, after a lyrical transition, breaks out in a lively Joropo (see the preceding interview for Reyes’s definition of this and other specifically Venezuelan terms). Omar Acosta’s Solo de Pajarillo is sultry, even a tad melancholy, but like its predecessor, becomes more energetic as it develops. Juan Francisco Sans’s Canto Aborigen places authentic native melodies in a sophisticated surround, but he wisely doesn’t dilute the basic material. As a result, the music often achieves a hypnotic intensity. Paul Desenne’s Ranchoson ’s extroversion owes its vitality to the underlying Son rhythm. (Originally a Cuban style, Son has been enthusiastically embraced by Venezuelans.) Reyes cites the Andrés Barrios and Eduardo Lecuna works as the least dependent on “ordinarily identifiable nationalistic elements,” but he feels nonetheless that they possess a distinctive Venezuelan soul. Be that as it may, Cuculi and Adios Pariente are enticing, dreamy works that transitorily suggest Debussy or Satie without sacrificing their own style. Lecuna’s piece is swathed in an aura of enchantment, summoned by sensual, low register phrases that simulate the feverish desire that, at least in my imagination, is a hallmark of incantatory chants. René Orea’s triptych, Irunulaciones is colorful and dramatic: (first movement) “Pasaje”’s jagged, not-quite-tonal accompaniment, interacting with the sinuous flute, creates pungent, Ginastera-like dissonances; “Dirunali” lulls the listener with delicate piano patterns and mysterious flute but then surprises with dynamically forceful climaxes; and “Costa-Montana”’s dancing, folk-like theme, propelled by a vigorous ostinato, sweeps the listener along to the sudden stop that ends the piece.

Ysmael Reyes is totally at ease in this repertoire, both culturally and technically. His agility, speed, rhythmic “point,” precise intonation, liquid phrasing, tonal sophistication, and comfortable execution of extended techniques all testify to his accomplishment. These attributes also apply to pianist Susan Olenwine, whose sensitivity, dynamic control, and idiomatic sympathy make her an ideal partner. She and Reyes bring the music to life, which is really all one can ask. Robert Schulslaper

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 July 2013 )
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